The first few weeks of back-to-school are always difficult for me. Most of our summer friends are suddenly unavailable and our Homeschool classes and groups haven’t begun. The playgrounds are empty, and athough Skyler & Gryffin enjoy having the place to themselves, I have that eerie feeling that everyone is off doing something fun without me. I feel excluded, left out -- a feeling that reminds me of my own experience of school. I start to fantasize about all the things I would be able to do if I my children were at school, it’s a rich & delicious fantasy. I imagine the art classes I would take, bringing my laptop to the coffee shop and writing all day, napping, reading wonderfully long complicated books, days filled with quiet. I imagine a clean house (but strangely, I never imagine myself cleaning – it is a fantasy after all). Of course, the reality is that Gryffin is only 3 years old, so this fantasy wouldn’t be possible even if Skyler was in school. But it sounds so…nice.I realize that this escape into fantasy is not really about what I want for myself, but is more about avoiding my fear. These first few weeks in September are marred by low level (and sometimes not-so-low level) anxiety, sleepless nights, questions. Am I making the right choice for Skyler? What opportunities for friendships, experiences, and learning am I NOT allowing? Am I making the right choice for Gryffin, who lives so strongly under his brother’s influence? Am I making the right choice for me? I love being with my children, playing and learning together. But, Erik works long hours, and I am sometimes overwhelmed by being the boys one and only. Every day. All day.
Then I remind myself that I know how to do this – after all, we’ve been homeschooling for 2 years already. Even when Skyler was in Kindergarten, I guided his academics. I taught him to read – well, he learned to read, with some help from me. I have a strong homeschooling community in place, classes to cover the things I can’t (soccer, gymnastics, Ninjitsu), co-ops and meetups to give the boys more opportunities to create friendships, and learn how to negotiate group dynamics.
It helps even more when I remember that the boys know how to do this homeschooling thing even better than I. As I write this, they are both completely absorbed in projects they developed themselves. Gryffin is creating a massive glue & white paper construction, while telling a story about a woman dressed in white who lives in Connecticut. Skyler has decided to make himself a top-hat. This involves tape measures, a compass, a pattern created from newsprint then reworked in poster board, and an ingenious method of creating a series of tabs to attach the brim to the top part of the hat. How did he figure that out? Together they are discussing the magic show they will soon be putting on. I pause in writing to convince them to comp me a ticket (rather than pay the $5.00 they requested). Skyler stops working on his project long enough to show Gryffin how to write the word “Magic”.
I know not every day will have this ease, interest and creative energy. But in these anxiety filled first weeks of fall, I hold onto the memory of the days that do: when one project flows into the next, when my messy house is evidence of a day spent making things, when the science museum is empty and ours to explore, when the kids are so involved in their own projects that I can pick up that wonderfully complicated book and read a chapter. I remember that the magic of learning happens every day in small and important ways and – lucky me! – I get to be a part of it all.